Outer Banks Photo Opportunities

Photo albums are filled with images of Outer Banks beaches. Our pristine shoreline and endless panorama of sea and sky call out to photographers who want to capture sunrises over the Atlantic, sea birds and their families enjoying surf and sand.

Yet, the Outer Banks is more than just miles of shoreline. As beautiful as our beaches may be, there are numerous venues that offer camera-worthy photo opts. To add unique snapshots of our area to your collection, adventurous photographers should take note of the following scenic locations.

The Boardwalk Trail, Currituck Banks Reserve – Corolla, NC
Approximately one mile past the Currituck Heritage Park, NC12 takes a sharp right hand turn. Directly to the left, there is a small parking lot that’s the trail head for a boardwalk that leads to the Currituck sound. This boardwalk, and the surrounding maritime forest, is a part of the Currituck Banks Estuarine Reserve.

The boardwalk is a short (.3 mile) stroll through a maritime forest leading to the sound. An easy walk, actually handicap accessible, it ends at a small platform overlooking the Currituck Sound. Towering pines line the pathway, leading to the point of a small bay or inlet that perfectly frames the sound water.

The Currituck Sound this far north is dotted with small islands and floating rafts of reeds, and on a clear day, details of mainland Currituck are easily seen. Other photo opportunities include marshy wetlands, wild oaks with storm-twisted branches, sea birds and other wildlife and color drenched sunsets. Mosquito repellant is a must!

Boardwalk in DuckThe Duck Town Park & Boardwalk – Duck, NC

Open to the public from dawn to dusk, there’s nothing else quite like this park on the Outer Banks. A mile-long wooden boardwalk perched on the edge of the Currituck Sound and surrounded by a lush 11 acre town park. It’s a wonderful place to take a stroll, but you definitely don’t want to forget your camera.

Ducks, geese and osprey regularly visit these waters, and a number of boat ramps and launches often provide a backdrop of recreational activity. Although the sound waters initially catch the eye, you’ll also want to scan the shoreline for interesting photo opts of waterfowl or the occasional otter that rest in the protective waters between the boardwalk and shoreline.

Sandy Run – Kitty Hawk, NC
Sandy Run Park is a gem of a park with photo opportunities available throughout all four seasons. Consisting of a one mile loop trail that circles around wetlands and impoundments, this area is teeming with wildlife. There is also an observation tower that looks out over a marsh and an osprey nesting site on the north end.

The park is located on The Woods Road, about two miles from the intersection with US 158, and the parking lot is on the left, just past Kitty Hawk Garden Center.

Old Nags Head Woods – Nags Head, NC
Old Nags Head Woods Road is a long-standing dirt road that twists and turns its way through Nags Head Woods. Beautifully shaded by massive old growth trees, the road itself is worth the trip, but it’s the view at the end of the road that camera buffs will want to capture.

Perched on a 20’ bank, and framed by the arcing tree branches, the view of Roanoke Island is unobstructed and breathtaking. Hawks regularly survey the waters for prey from the branches of a massive live oak that’s fallen to the sound waters yet is still very much alive.

There’s no official sign marking Old Nags Head Woods Road, but it does show up on maps. There are two ways to get to the road from Kill Devil Hills. Turn west at the stoplight adjacent to Pigman’s Barbecue onto Ocean Acres and follow it past the Nags Head Woods Visitor Center. The paved road becomes a dirt road and ends at a secondary dirt road where you turn left. Or, turn west onto Martin Street. Martin Street becomes a dirt road and bends to the left. Stay on this road until it arrives at the sound.

Currituck Lighthouse Matt LuskLighthouses
There are three Outer Banks lighthouses that are available to climb: Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island and Currituck Beach. The view from the top of all three is spectacular and, although Cape Hatteras is the best known and tallest of the three, photographers may actually find the other two towers more interesting. In particular, the marshes, wetlands and impoundments at the base of Bodie Island make for very interesting photos. Nonetheless, the climb to the top of all three is worth the effort, especially if you have your camera.

Five Bike Rides: Outer Banks Trails

Bike Riding Outer BanksWorking with the NCDOT, local governments and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, the Outer Banks has done a remarkable job of creating multi-use trails ideal for cycling, walking and running. Although it’s likely you’ll have to ride on the shoulder of a major road at some point during your rides, these distances are relatively short and easily managed for most riders. Here are five suggestions for memorable rides:

Great Family Bike Ride – The Woods Road, Kitty Hawk
The Woods Road is where the Outer Banks Marathon begins, and it’s a beautifully shaded road located in the heart of Kitty Hawk Woods. This multi-use path has a couple of minor hills which any determined youngster should be able to navigate.

The best place to park is probably the small parking lot adjacent to Paul Pruitt Park at the beginning of The Wood Road next to the Dominion Power building. The trail does eventually come to a fork, and either path you select will be a pleasant ride.

Trail Ride – Kitty Hawk Woods
This suggestion is for the mountain bike crowd. Kitty Hawk Woods is a 2,000 acre maritime forest of extraordinary beauty. In addition to the multi-use trails within its boundaries, there are hiking trails that encompasses a surprisingly diverse environment.

The Ridge Trail takes riders up and down relict sand dunes, and depending on how much rain there has been, through some muddy terrain. A moderate, but not extraordinary, skill level is needed for the ride. One of the best options is to park at Paul Pruitt Park, take the multi-use trail to the trailhead and bare right at the fork in the road—Twiford Lane. Follow the lane to the Austin Cemetery, turn right and then make another right onto Ridge Road. The trailhead is located at the end of Ridge Road.

Dirt Road – Nags Head Woods
There are a variety of entrances into Nags Head Woods, but many can be confusing. One of the best options is to begin at the Visitor’s Center parking lot on Ocean Acres Drive in Kill Devil Hills. To get to the Center, turn west from the Bypass onto Ocean Acres Drive (just past Pigman’s Barbecue at milepost 14) and follow the road until the pavement ends. The Visitor’s Center is located on the right hand side.

Turn left out of the parking lot, then make another left at the intersection. The road is made up of packed dirt, is nicely shaded and surprisingly hilly and ends with a beautiful panorama of Roanoke Sound. Road bikes with skinny tires are not a good idea for this ride and beach cruisers may be challenging, but almost any other bike should work fine.

Ride for Adults and Older Children – The Monument Ride
The Wright Brothers Monument in Kill Devil Hills is one of the iconic symbols of the Outer Banks and a great area for a bike ride. During the summer months, the best place to park is the First Flight High School (FFHS) parking lot, but don’t park there when school is in session from mid-August through mid-June.

It’s impossible to miss the Monument from FFHS. Ride north toward the Monument and turn left at the light onto Colington Road. In about a quarter mile, there is an access road to First Flight Airport, which is the rear access into the park grounds. The trail takes you for a loop around the Monument and back to the entrance point. This is a relatively easy ridewith no hills. There is little shade so dress appropriately and bring water.

Challenging Ride – Currituck Beach Lighthouse to Bodie Island Lighthouse
This ride is for those who are physically fit and up for a challenge. According to Google Maps, the distance is 42.6 miles for the most direct route and portions would include cycling along US 158 and the Bypass through the towns of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Had. There are a number of alternatives that include wide shoulders and multi-use paths. The best bet is to review the Corolla to Nags Head maps on the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau website to determine the best route for you.

Important to Note
Duck and Southern Shores have some of the most extensive multi-use trails on the Outer Banks. The trails on the north end of Duck are especially great for family rides. Wind is a constant factor on the Outer Banks. Whenever possible, ride out against the wind as it’s very challenging to ride into a 10mph head wind when you’re tired. In the summer months this is usually from the south. Wear a helmet, bring water and most importantly, enjoy!

Outer Banks Kite Flying Locations

Kite Flying in OBXThe Outer Banks has some of the best kite flying conditions in the country. The consistent winds that brought the Wright Brothers to Kitty Hawk are the same winds that easily lift kites into the sky.

Wind, of course, is the most important condition needed for flying a kite. Ideal winds for kite flying are around 6 mph to 17 or 18 mph. Below these wind speeds, specialized kites that are designed for light winds are required. When the winds are blowing at 20mph or more, kite flying becomes an aerobic exercise!

Not all kite flying locations are created equal. This activity requires an open area with nothing to block the wind strength. Below are a few highly recommended locations on the Outer Banks.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is as good as it gets … anywhere in the world. At this height, there is literally nothing to stop the wind, and the view from the top of the ridge is breathtaking. An additional bonus is that a very well stocked kite store, Kitty Hawk Kites, is located directly across the road.

A few recommendations to make for a more enjoyable kite flying experience at this state park include sunscreen, water and shoes. There is just sand, no trees or buildings and therefore, no shade, so sunscreen is a must to protect your skin. Secondly, bring water, especially during the summer months as it gets quite hot on the dunes. Lastly, protect your feet. Sandals or shoes are a must, because the sand temperature can be up to 40 degrees hotter than the air temperature. Second degree burns on the soles of your feet will put a damper on your vacation plans.

The Beach
When conditions are right, there is no greater joy in life than flying a kite on the beach, and the wider the shoreline the better. However, beach flying can be a bit challenging. The best winds will arrive from SSW to North. North and Northeast winds are often associated with colder weather so dress accordingly.

The homes, businesses and hotels that border the beach create a barrier to the wind. In the summer, when Outer Banks winds are typically from the southwest, flying a kite on the beach can be difficult. As the breeze comes over the structures, a wind shadow is formed where there is little wind, and at the edge of the wind shadow, the air is turbulent.

Flying a kite in these conditions will demonstrate this principle. At low altitude, the kite will bob, weave and dance uncontrollably. If the kite can rise above the turbulence, it will fly beautifully. A single line kite will perform much better under these conditions than a stunt kite.

Please be aware of beach goers. Generally people are not aware of kite lines and don’t recognize they can be dangerous. A courteous warning goes a long way. In the summer, if the beach is crowded, it’s best not to attempt flying your kite until fewer people are around.

Whalehead Club
The Whalehead Club in Corolla is a great northern location for kite flying. Featuring an open grassy field, conditions aren’t quite as good as Jockey’s Ridge, but they’re definitely conducive to success when flying a kite.

Especially during the summer months, the Whalehead Club is a great location for kite flying since the majority of the open field faces southwest. With the wind arriving off the Currituck Sound, conditions are often ideal and the site, especially with the sun setting over the Sound, provides spectacular views.

Kite Flying on the Outer Banks – A Basic Kite Guide

Kite Flying Guide OBXWith our consistent coastal winds, it would be difficult to find a better place to fly a kite than the Outer Banks. From the tall sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head to our award winning beaches, kite enthusiasts can expect high flying adventures on the Outer Banks.

If you’re a novice, walking into a kite store to make a purchase may seem confusing or downright overwhelming. But, the good news is that there are four basic types of kites with a unique fifth variety that falls into one of two existing categories. The types are: (1) single line, (2) fighter kites, (3) dual line stunt kites and (4) quad line stunt kites. The fifth type, power kites, uses either a two line or four line control system.

Single Line Kites:
A single line is the basic kite that parents most often choose to purchase for children. There are three basic types that fall into this category—diamond shape, delta and parafoil. Box kites are more uncommon yet also fall into this category.

Deltas and parafoils are the easiest kites to fly. Diamond shaped kites are the classic, but they tend to take more wind and are less stable during flight. Parafoils have no frame—they get their shape when the wind fills baffles in the kite. Because they have no sticks or frame to break, they are an excellent choice for younger kids.

Fighter Kites:
A hybrid kite that appears to have originated in either the Orient or the Indian subcontinent, fighter kites are a steerable single line kite. This is not a kite for the novice—they are designed to be unstable in flight and to respond to variations in tension from the line.

Originally fighter kites were flown with glass embedded in the line with the intention of cutting the opponent’s line. While kite fighting is not done in the U.S. anymore, some countries still host fighter kite competitions. A variety of fighter kite styles are produced, and some of these kites are truly works of art.

Dual Line Stunt Kites:
A dual line is the basic stunt kite design, and bears a striking resemblance to a hang glider. Both owe their existence to Francis Rogallo, the inventor of the wing that gave rise to both stunt kites and hang gliding.

The kite is controlled by changing the tension on the lines attached to the bridle. Pull back on the right hand, and the kite will start making loops to the right and continue to do so until both hands are evenly spaced and parallel to the body. The kite will go in the direction of the nose, so if your hands are even and parallel to your body and the nose is pointed to the ground, a correction will be needed!

It generally takes about an hour to get past the frustration stage of learning to maneuver a stunt kite, but it’s definitely time very well spent! Once you hone these skills, stunt kites provide hours of entertainment and are suitable for those ages 10 and up.

Quad Line Stunt Kites:
Introduced by Revolution Kites in the 1990s, quad line kites transformed what people thought a stunt kite could do. The same principle applies as to how dual line and quad line kites are controlled, but the manner in which the tension on the flight surface is changed is radically different.

A quad line kite is controlled by rolling the wrists forward or backwards or bringing the flyer’s thumbs toward the body or moving them away. The responsiveness of the kite is extraordinary, and it is possible to do stunts with a quad line kite that are not possible with a two line kite.

A Historic Note: Proving once again that they were ahead of their time, design sketches of the Wright Brothers experimental 1899 kite clearly show a quad line control system.

Power Kites:
Power kites, sometimes called traction kites, are generally dual line or quad line parafoils that generate a tremendous amount of lift when flown. They vary in size from 4 feet and up, but any kite larger than 8 feet (2.5 meters) is capable of dragging an adult around in consistent winds.

Often used with kite buggies on the sand, they are extremely fun to fly; however it’s important to know the potential risks. Although children can fly these kites, they should always be closely supervised.

Noteworthy Information:
As a general rule, the larger the kite, the less wind it will need to fly. The surface area that gathers wind to lift the kite is larger, and therefore, is able to gather more energy.

Single line kite flyers—remember, what goes up, must come down, and it’s much easier, faster and more fun to let out 1000’ of line than it is to wind it back.

Kite lines are under tension when a kite is in the air. Stunt kite line is a specialized line called Spectra that has almost no stretch, and getting hit by that kind of line is painful and dangerous. For that reason, please walk around the area where a kite is being flown.

Outer Banks Must See Destinations

USA Today just came out with their “Road Trip USA: 50 States, 50 Unique Stops,” an article highlighting one unique stop in each of our 50 states. As often as the Outer Banks finds itself in the news, it was no surprise to find that the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was listed for the state of North Carolina. This article got us thinking about other “must see” destinations we hope our guests will experience.

Bodie Island LighthouseBodie Island Lighthouse: http://1.usa.gov/1ao136N
The last of Outer Bank’s lighthouses to be repaired and brought up to climbing standards, the 170’ Bodie Island Lighthouse is a slightly smaller version of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It’s made by the same builder from the same materials, and it offers what may be the most spectacular view of the Outer Banks marshes and wetlands. It’s a bit difficult climbing all the steps to the top, but WOW is the view worth it!

Nags Head Woods: http://bit.ly/1yH4n24
Steep trails climbing to the edge of a ridge through a series of switchbacks, hardwood trees and plunging ravines are all a part of the unique beauty of Nags Head Woods. This 1,100 acre Nature Conservancy preserve is located on the border of Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. Remarkable in the variety of its terrain, the preserve also includes a series of handicapped accessible trails.

Whalehead Club: http://bit.ly/1bRHJz4
Rumor has it that Edward Collings Knight, Jr., built this extraordinary art nouveau mansion for his wife, Marie Lebel Knight, after she was refused membership at a Currituck Sound hunt club. While the actual reason he built this estate is unconfirmed, the Whalehead Club is definitely worth a visit. Meticulously restored to its original grandeur, including authentic tiffany fixtures and Mrs. Knight’s 1903 Steinway Grand Piano, taking a tour is a fascinating window into a different era and an elegant way of life.

On the grounds of Currituck Heritage Park, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and Currituck Beach Lighthouse are immediately adjacent and available to tour.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge: http://1.usa.gov/1BUVIue
Located on our inner banks, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a huge tract of land, approximately 152,000 acres (234 square miles), and is situated on mainland Dare County. An exploring opportunity for those more adventurous at heart, there are a number of trails throughout the Refuge and dirt roads give access to a lot of the land. Bear, fox, raccoon, and yes, alligators are common. It is also the release site for the red wolf, a subspecies of wolf that was thought extinct in the wild. Kayak, canoe and tram tours are also available.

Jockey's Ridge Aerial

Jockey’s Ridge State Park: http://1.usa.gov/19Np6Lj
The largest sand dune on the East Coast, the height of Jockey’s Ridge varies between 70’ and 100’ depending on wind conditions. The ridge has massively steep sides, with a ridge that extends about a quarter mile along the crest of the dune. There’s a remarkably diverse environment at the base, the trek is a great adventure for kids, and the view from the top is amazing. This is also a spectacular place for kite flying and is home to the Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School.